There is a debate about how necessary a software patent really is, and whether they do more harm than good. The goal of patent law is to create incentives for innovation which has many benefits for society as a whole.
These benefits are countered by the fact that patents reduce competition and can thus slow the pace of innovation and increase legal costs.
It can be argued that patents are more useful in some industries than in others, and in the software industry the costs may outweigh the benefits. This is because the main beneficiaries of patent law in the software industry appear to be so called “patent trolls” and the lawyers that represent them.
In addition, the developments in software technology are very rapid, and it may not be worth paying for the patent application when significant changes are often being made to software programs. Most software entrepreneurs and venture capitalists see little benefit from patent law as it exists today, and most are forced into filing patent applications as a defensive strategy or to raise their chances of acquisition.
It is not necessary to patent software because the option of copyright protection can be a better choice in many cases. Copyright protection has been the most common form of protection used in the software industry over the last 20 years, and it works better for software than it does for books. This is because a key feature of software is a distinct separation between executable binary code and editable source code.
Software patents are used more strategically in the US software industry, but they tend to be too inflexible to serve as adequate investment protection. A software patent also requires long wait times of up to several years and is costly to obtain. Copyright protection, on the other hand, is more cost effective and it takes effect immediately.